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Augmented Reality and Business: Can SMEs join in?

Immersive technologies have been all the rage for the past few years, and companies are pushing it harder with the releases of AR filters on Snapchat to Instagram and Facebook’s AR studio to make creating and promoting AR filters even easier. Experiential activations are now playing with AR, VR and other ways to immerse and engage consumers.

Yet, when we look at the brands that are playing with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), we can see one thing in common; these are brands with bigger than average budgets. Then, how can small or mid-sized businesses compete?

We talked to Ethos Media’s CEO and founder Navjeet Chhina, who talked to us about MENA’s challenges with technologies such as AR and how those with tighter budgets might be able to use these budding immersive technologies.

 

Let’s help our readers get up to speed first, what is Augmented Reality and what are its advantages, not just for stand alone campaigns, but as an important possible element of a brand?

Augmented Reality is the blending of the physical world with the digital world. Using computer vision and mobile devices, Augmented Reality allows users to overlay information, 3d assets on top of their physical world. It can also scan whatever is in the camera’s view and provide relevant information based on your surroundings.

 

How important do you see technologies such as AR will be in the future for businesses?

Augmented Reality will completely transform business. The most authoritative endorsements of the technology come from Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook and has been quoted saying: “Augmented Reality Will Change Everything”, “Augmented Reality will be bigger than the iPhone”. Imagine the impact the iPhone had on society when it was released. AR will do the same and more.

Navjeet Chhina

 

When we talk about AR, VR and all the immersive technologies, a lot of people are still worried about its cost vs benefits. Big companies have the advantage of being able to create content with these new technologies, but do you believe that mid-sized or small business could have a chance? Should they even consider it?

Absolutely. Once consumers become accustomed to AR, it will be impossible to go backwards. It will be like having a website. The hardest part for small to mid-sized businesses is having access to great AR partners who can create tailor fitted solutions to specific budgets.

 

Let’s move to the How. What are some of the practical ways that a small or mid-sized business can use AR?

We like to categorize AR into 3 main tiers.

Tier 3 is the most basic package and it involves trigger based Augmented Reality. This is where you use AR to bring signage to life and display video content on top of it.

Tier 2 Augmented Reality involves the projection of 3d models into the physical space without requiring an image trigger. This is called markerless AR. Below is an example of this process:

Tier 3 Augmented Reality is the most immersive and involves creating portals in your space that can transport users into a new world:

 

Before coming to Egypt, did you do any research on the local or MENA region marketing scene?

Absolutely, we had the strategy of finding high quality local partners in the area to make sure we had high touch customer management. Nineteen84 Management is our official marketing partner in the MENA region.

 

What do you believe are some of the challenges that businesses in MENA could face when it comes to working with AR?

This is an emerging field and it’s very easy to choose a low quality provider of AR. The variance in quality is extremely high and it is extremely important to ensure that the MENA region is constantly learning about the architecture of Augmented Reality and choosing only the highest quality software developers and artists / graphic designers / 3D developers in order to create world class experiences.

 

Which industries do you feel will be most impacted by AR? Marketing, PR or Ecommerce and why?

I believe that the industries that will be most affected by augmented reality will be Marketing and E-Commerce.

AR will be extremely important for marketing as it allows brands to showcase themselves in a new way and engage, attract, entertain and retain their clientele. E-commerce and augmented reality will allow products to be seen and tested anywhere in the world, in real time, before a purchase decision is made.

Augmented reality experiences are transforming the way businesses are interacting with their customers, potential customers, stakeholders and even their employees. From retail stores to advertisers to the automotive industry, organizations are harnessing the power of AR to boost efficiency, try new ideas, and train their workforce.

 

We’ve heard about KFC’s now famous VR training game, do you believe that this, or a similar version with AR, could have positive lasting effects on a business long-term, or is it more of a trend and that traditional training and mentorship is still the best?

I believe that KFC’s training game was a good look at how training can be accomplished in a virtual world.

As AR and VR become adopted, business’ will definitely be able to leverage these platforms to create an exciting training experience that is memorable and interactive. AR will allow trainees to learn anywhere, anytime and at their own pace and experience training that is personalized to them.

 

What would your advice be for brands stepping into AR for the first time in either being as creative or effective as possible?

My advice would be for brands to carefully evaluate what their mission critical business objectives are, and using Augmented Reality to be the entry point for consumers to start the journey towards those objectives. I would recommend using only the highest quality developers and creatives so that they can differentiate from companies using low quality methods.

 

Lastly, what are your favorite applications of AR so far?

My favorite application of Augmented Reality is how it is used to transform the landscape of E-Commerce. Shopify AR is allowing users to view their favorite products from the comfort of their home before they make the purchase decision.

 

Learn more about AR

We caught Navjeet ahead of his talk at this year’s Creative Industry Summit, where he discussed “how Augmented reality can tie into the core principals of a business” in more detail.

In the next week or so, visit Ethos Media‘s website to experience AR firsthand, and learn more about how AR can help brands.

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